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Max von Sydow

From Academic Kids

Max Carl Adolf von Sydow Template:Audio (born on April 10 1929) is a Swedish actor, known in particular for his collaboraton with Ingmar Bergman.

Max von Sydow was born to a middle class family in Lund in southern Sweden. His father, Carl Wilhelm, was a professor of comparative folklore at the University of Lund; his mother, Maria, was a school teacher. He had at least one brother, who died during the filming of von Sydow's most controversial film The Exorcist. Little material is available on his childhood, except that he seems to have been a shy, quiet child. He attended the Cathedral School of Lund, but despite being taught German and English from the age of nine, Max von Sydow initially professed little interest in working outside Sweden.

In their late teens, von Sydow and some friends founded an amateur theatre company and this is where he started his acting career. He completed National Service before going on to study at The Royal Dramatic Theatre ("Dramaten") in Stockholm where he trained between 1948 and 1951 with the likes of Lars Ekborg, Margaretha Krook and Ingrid Thulin. During his time at Dramaten, he made his screen debut in Alf Sjöberg's films Only a Mother (Bara en Mor, 1949), and Miss Julie (Fröken Julie, 1951), a Swedish classic after August Strindberg.

It was when von Sydow moved to Malmö in 1955 that he met his great mentor Ingmar Bergman, with whom he worked first on stage (at Malmö Municipal Theatre), and later on films such as The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde inseglet, 1957), Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället, 1957) and The Virgin Spring (Jungfrukällan, 1960). It was here where von Sydow perfected his craft and began to display the great talent that has spanned the 53 years of his screen career. Von Sydow now dominated the screen as he had done on stage and in doing so became an idol of the international Arthouse. Recognition came as early as 1954 when he was awarded the prestigious Royal Foundation Culture Award.

Von Sydow married in 1951 to actress Kerstin Olin with whom he had two sons, Claes and Henrik. They were to star with their father in the film Hawaii (1966), playing his son at different ages. Von Sydow was divorced in 1996 but got remarried to French filmmaker Catherine Brelet in April 1997 in Provence, France.

Von Sydow worked profusely on stage and screen in Scandinavia and resisted increasing calls from the U.S. to come to Hollywood. After being seen in Bergman's Oscar-winning films and having been first choice for the title role of Dr. No, Von Sydow finally set foot in America after agreeing to star in the film which was to lead to much greater recognition, the role of Jesus in George Steven's grandly titled, all-star epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). His talents were soon in demand in other American productions and so von Sydow and his family eventually moved to Los Angeles.

From 1965 von Sydow became a regular on the American screen while also maintaining a presence in his native Sweden. Though perhaps type-cast as a villain, he was rewarded in the United States with two Golden Globe nominations for Hawaii and The Exorcist (1973).

In the mid 70s, von Sydow moved to Rome and appeared in a number of Italian films, becoming friendly with another screen legend, Marcello Mastrioanni.

Von Sydow's career is too long to go into detail here and while he has given dozens of award-winning performances he has had some keynote films for which he has received recognition. He won the Pasinetti Award at the Venice Film Festival for The Flight of the Eagle (Ingenjör Andrées luftfärd, 1982) but this was to be his only major movie award until what one might describe as the renaissance of his career.

In the late '70s and early '80s, von Sydow was in great demand in Hollywood and appeared to good effect in both serious films, such as Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and silly ones like the Mackenzie Brothers' Strange Brew (1983).

In 1987 von Sydow celebrated his success in Pelle the Conqueror (Pelle erobreren), named after Martin Andersen Nexø's novel. He received his first Oscar nomination as well as winning the Bodil Prize, The Felix European Film Award, The Robert Award and the Guldbagge Award from his native Sweden (amazingly, the first time he was even nominated for the award). He also received special mention when Pelle garnered the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Since then Von Sydow has won The Australian Film Institute Best Actor Award for his title role in Father (1989), the Guldbagge Best Best Director Award for his only directorial foray Katinka (Ved vejen, 1988), based on a novel by Herman Bang, and the Best Actor Award at The Tokyo International Film Festival for The Silent Touch (Dotkniecie reki, 1993).

It wasn't long before von Sydow had another Scandanavian success. He received international acclaim for his performance as the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Knut Hamsun in Jan Troell's biopic Hamsun . He received his third Swedish Guldbagge and his second Danish Bodil for his depiction of a character often described as his King Lear. In 1996 Von Sydow starred in Liv Ullmann's Private Confessions (Enskilda samtal). Back in Hollywood, he appeared in What Dreams May Come (1998) in a role which was something of a tip in that hat to his performance in The Exorcist.

His most recent triumph is probably his performance as an elderly lawyer in Scott Hick's Snow Falling on Cedars (1999). Pre-Oscar talk had him tipped to scoop the Best Supporting Actor Award, however, this never came to fruition. In 2002 von Sydow had one of his largest commercial sucesses, co-starring with Tom Cruise in Steven Spielberg's widely popular sci-fi thriller Minority Report. In 2003, he played mentor character Eyvind in the European TV adaptation of the "Ring of the Nibelungs" saga.

Von Sydow currently lives with his wife in Paris, where he enjoys reading, listening to music and gardening. He has personally stated he does not intend to retire, subject to the film roles he receives.

External links

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